Ancient and Modern Constitutionmaking
CLST 310-401, Cross Listed with: GAFL-510
John J. Mulhern
BFS Sector II
What actually was it that the Greeks were thinking of when they used the expression politeia—an expression which we often translate by ‘constitution’ but which might be translated also by ‘citizenship’, ‘citizen body’, or ‘regime’? What do their thoughts suggest, if anything, about prospects for constitutionmaking today? This course builds on contemporary scholarship to reconstruct what we may call the constitutionmaking tradition as it develops in the main ancient texts, which are read in English translations.
The ancient texts are taken from Herodotus, the Pseudo-Xenophon, Diodorus Siculus,Thucydides, Xenophon, Plato, the author of the Aristotelian Athenian Constitution, Aristotle himself, Polybius, Cicero, Tacitus, and Plutarch. The course traces this ancient tradition through the Middle Ages and the Renaissance and the great thinkers of the Seventeenth Century, following linguistic and other clues that carry one up to the American colonial documents, the so-called state constitutions, and the debates in the Constitutional Convention; and it continues through Nineteenth Century and Twentieth Century constitutionmaking into today’s constitutionmaking efforts in Europe, North Africa (especially Egypt), and elsewhere.
In its 2014 version, the course draws on recent work which suggests that Aristotle’s Politics was written for an intended audience of people making constitutions and people making laws, either for domestic use or for colonies.
The course is conducted as a group tutorial. In individual tutorials, where instruction is one on one, the tutor typically assigns a paper to a student each week, and the student reads it the next week and takes questions from the tutor. In a group tutorial, the professor offers a prelecture to the students in each session on the text that they will read next to help them understand its historical, literary, and political context. In the next class, the students read short papers on the text, and these papers are discussed by other students and by the professor. The professor then provides a summary lecture on the text just completed, if necessary, and a prelecture on the text set for the next class. At the end of the course, the students have reconstructed the constitutionmaking tradition for themselves from the primary sources.
Literary Theory Ancient to Modern
CLST 396-401, Cross Listed with: ENGL-394 COML-383
BFS Sector III
This is a course on the history of literary theory, a survey of major debates about literature, poetics, and ideas about what literary texts should do, from ancient Greece to examples of modern European thought.
The first half of the course will focus on early periods: Greek and Roman antiquity, especially Plato and Aristotle; the medieval period (including St. Augustine, Dante, and Boccaccio), and the early modern period (such as Philip Sidney and Giambattista Vico). We’ll move into modern and 20th century by looking at the literary (or “art”) theories of some major philosophers, artists, and poets: Kant, Hegel, Shelley, Marx, the painter William Morris, Freud, and the critic Walter Benjamin. We’ll end with a look at Foucault’s work. The point of this course is to consider closely the Western European tradition which generated questions that are still with us, such as: what is the “aesthetic”; what is “imitation” or mimesis; how are we to know an author’s intention; and under what circumstances should literary texts ever be censored.
During the semester there will be four short writing assignments in the form of analytical essays (3 pages each), and students can use these small assignments to build into a long writing assignment on a single text or group of texts at the end of the term. Most of our readings will come from a published anthology of literary criticism and theory; a few readings will be on Blackboard.